HDYDI: Potty Learning/Training

The PC term is probably learning, but I prefer training.  We’ve done four rounds of this and while each has been slightly different, the fundamentals haven’t changed.  I’ll spare you the visual aid, I think we all have one in mind 🙂

Here’s how we did it!


1.  Cardinal rule.  NUMBER ONE.  Wait until your child is ready.  If you don’t you will just beat your head against the toilet as you scrub it with Clorox wipes.  Don’t do that to yourself.  Not pretty.  You’ll know your child is ready when they do things like (DISCLAIMER:  these are all purely hypothetical and have never happened at our house): 

a) take off their dirty diaper in the crib when you’re too slow to get them up from nap
b) scream in the middle of the grocery store, “Mommy I’m stinky.  Change my byper NOW!”
c) as you’re using the bathroom they get their head so close to the tank you think they might fall in
d) pee off the balcony just inches from where you’re standing

But again, you have to decide “readiness” on your own.

2.  Equally important, perhaps even more so than #1, wait until you’re ready.  I tried potty training Will just before John Paul arrived.  So, so stupid.  We/he regressed and after three days of non-stop accidents, I threw in the toilet paper and bought more diapers.  We tried again three months later and succeeded in three days.

3.  Find a week or at least 3-4 days when you have nothing on the calendar.  Or, if you do have something on the calendar, cancel it.  You will thank yourself later.

4.  Go buy fancy new underwear and take your kids with you.  Ok, that came out wrong.  When I go buy fancy new underwear for myself, I do NOT take my kids with me.  When I’m buying Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Train undies for the kids, then yes, they’re with me.  It makes it fun and exciting.  If you take them with you to buy your underwear it’s embarassing and stressful.  Be prepared to start potty training the millisecond you get home or your child will bust into tears.  Just sayin.

5.  Go cold turkey.  Once we found the stretch of time (usually spring break or the Christmas break), we took them out of their diaper that morning, stripped them down to nothing but a pair of undies and went right to it.  I pumped them full of juice (note to self, buy a case of juice boxes), plopped them on a towel on the tile, and set the timer.  Every 15 minutes we went to the potty to “try.”  No matter what.  Inevitably, you will do this for an hour and they will be bone dry.  Until, of course, they get about a foot from the towel and they will pee like a dog on a fire hydrant.  That towel does come in handy.

6.  When they finally do pee on the toilet (they will, trust me), I gave them one M&M.  It’s a good thing you never saw me cheering my kids on as they peed.  I looked like a bad version of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.  It was effective to a 2 and 3yo, though.

7.  To earn two M&M’s is a little trickier.  One of my kids, he shall remain nameless, was terrified to poop on the toilet.  It took several weeks to convince him that it was ok.  We even brought him into the bathroom when others were flushing so he could see everything go down, yet know that all was ok with the flusher.  Child psychology is so tricky.  No one told me I needed an MD in THAT specialty.

8.  There is conflicting information about this next tip, but it worked for us.  I never put my kids in pullups during naptime.  We only did those at bedtime.  I just felt like it was too confusing for my kids to wear undies all day, switch to pullups for nap, then back to undies, then back to pullups for bed.  Some people use pullups as a trainer, but I always thought it was a waste of money.  See #3.  I put a waterproof pad on their beds and we only had a few accidents.  Actually, with two children I only had one accident a piece and the other two had a few more.  To this day, all my children have waterproof mattress pads on their beds.  And, at the rate we’re going, they’ll be there until age 18.

9.  Overnight potty training may not happen immediately.  For Will, he was almost 5 before mastered that.  Anna-Laura mastered it exactly two days after learning to pee on the toilet.  (I’m telling you, she mastered the toilet gig in 24 hours.  Totally awesome.)  Clare and John Paul are still in pullups.  Yes, I know.  JP is 7.  That is definitely another blog post.  But, once your kids wake up with a dry pullup 3-4 days in a row, then you’re ready to put ’em in undies at night.  Yeah, you’ll probably have some accidents, but they will be less frequent.

10.  And I always save the best for last.  Go buy a case of wine with all that money that would’ve gone to diapers.  Money. Well. Spent.


  1. Alexis D. on August 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    thanks for your advice Kathryn. We are going through this right now…and it has been a bit taxing!

  2. Andrea on January 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Just saw your blog link from Preemie Moms. Great information! I potty trained my triplets a couple months ago (age 2 1/2) and we’re still struggling with pooping in the potty! I do put them in pull-ups at naptime and nighttime, though…and that’s when they usually go. So I might try your advice of not using pull-ups at naptime. I just dread having to change 3 wet beds or throw off their great nap routine (they still nap 2 1/2 hours!).

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